Premature births linked to air pollution cost the US $4.3B a year

Premature Births Linked to Air Pollution Cost the US $4.3B a Year

Premature births linked to air pollution cost the U.S. more than $4 billion in 2010, according to a new study.

Nearly 16,000 premature births — a little more than 3 percent of all premature births in the U.S. — are linked to harmful particulates in the air. Urban areas saw the highest impacts.

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The new analysis published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives tallied the yearly costs: $760 million for extended hospital stays and medication, and $3.57 billion of economic output lost because of disabilities linked to premature births.

Environmental toxinsand especially air pollution — lead to more toxic chemicals in the mother's bloodstream and weaken her immune system. Premature infants can have neurological and respiratory problems.

Researchers say reducing preterm births — and their associated health care and economic costs — means limiting harmful emissions.

"For policymakers, decisions about regulating air pollution come down to a trade-off between the cost of preventing air pollution and the health and economic benefits of limiting air pollution sources," an author of the study told CBS News.

The team intends to eventually expand its analysis to a global scale in hopes of inspiring future policy changes.

Related: Also learn more about risk factors during pregnancy:

Risk factors for complications during pregnancy
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Premature births linked to air pollution cost the US $4.3B a year

Advanced maternal age

Pregnancy risks are higher for mothers age 35 and older.

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Lifestyle choices

Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs can put a pregnancy at risk.

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Medical history

 A prior C-section, low birth weight baby or preterm birth — birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy — might increase the risk in subsequent pregnancies. Other risk factors include a family history of genetic conditions, a history of pregnancy loss or the death of a baby shortly after birth.

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Underlying conditions

Chronic conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and epilepsy — increase pregnancy risks. A blood condition, such as anemia, an infection or an underlying mental health condition also can increase pregnancy risks.

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Pregnancy complications

Various complications that develop during pregnancy pose risks, such as problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta. Other concerns might include too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) or low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), restricted fetal growth, or Rh (rhesus) sensitization — a potentially serious condition that can occur when your blood group is Rh negative and your baby's blood group is Rh positive.

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Multiple pregnancy

Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher order multiples.

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